David Cuevas takes a look at ‘Evolution′, as part of FilmHounds’ ongoing Cannes Film Festival coverage.

There isn’t a single word spoken in the first ten minutes of Kornél Mundruczó’s Evolution. The first out of three chapters in the film opens with the ambiguous word “Eva”, as a group of militia-men shower the walls and floors of what appears to be an abandoned concentration camp. Eerie music accompanies the doomed men, as they continuously peel the hair laced crevices of the walls, pipes, and sewer drains. In one long take, Mundruczó utilises the power of visual storytelling and escalating drama through moving action. The camera — extended within a claustrophobic long take — observes the men as they scavenge the camp, seeking for the whimper of a mysterious survivor. The first act found in Evolution is essentially a piece of perfect filmmaking; a work of moving drama that provides little context to further intensify its humanitarian stakes. 

In Lena, the second part in the film, context is finally provided in regards to Mundruczó’s central cinematic thesis. Evolution is a film about intergenerational trauma and pre-lived memories post-holocaust; a familiar inheritance focusing on three generations that overlap with a common idea of confrontation and survival. In the second part of the film, Mundruczó prominently focuses on dialogue-driven drama — a literal expositional conversation between mother and daughter about the ethical acceptance of compensation in the face of one’s internal hardships and the monetisation of trauma. Tough questions for a tough film to capture, all the more essential in our current political climate. The camera once again whirs through a studio apartment, as we see the sole two characters discuss their concerns through a justified framing device. Whereas other directors would merely keep their conversations static, Mundruczó insists on applying additional levels of intimacy. Closeups, medium shots, and even brief fragments of the external streets of Budapest further accompany the spoken word; a work of visual poetry and synchronicity. 

Still Courtesy – Match Factory Productions

The final fragment entitled Jonas is a peculiar conclusion to Mundruczó’s holocaust triptych. Whereas the other segments specifically utilise literal imagery and dialogue to comment on the instilled paranoia and fear of the Nazi regime in present-day Budapest, ‘Jonas’ more relies on subtle visual metaphor and aimless melodrama for profound effect. More or less a social critique on the growing hatred towards minority populations than a direct narrative focusing on antisemitism from the perspective of a teenager — the third part and conclusion to Mundruczó’s profound drama offers solace and peace to a restless chapter of 20th Century history; even with its occasional moments of emotional and thematic detachment with the prior two segments. Perhaps, the kids will be alright. 

The title ‘Evolution’ is purely metaphorical, a film about emotional catharsis and growth in the face of adversity and tragedy. An undeniably personal project for screenwriters Weber and Mundruczó, the end result of their three-part/three long-take choreographed venture into the human psyche is a powerful piece of moving, breathing cinema. 

Still Courtesy – Match Factory Productions
Evolution premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as part of the Cannes Premiere selection. The film is currently seeking International Distribution.

By David Cuevas

David Cuevas is a writer, reporter, and the official festivals editor (US/Canada) for FilmHounds Magazine. In his spare time, you can find him watching a bunch of movies while contemplating on his own existence.

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